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Panel presents community perspective on successful reforms

Shannon O'Brien | Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In response to the 2011-2012 Notre Dame Forum, four principals from South Bend schools came together with local parents, educators and ND students to give the community perspective on their schools’ stories of reform and change.

“I think the conversation in the Forum has been very productive. But, it just seems to make no sense if we don’t move forward from the Forum and involve our local educators in this discussion,” senior Liz Chaten, the panel facilitator, said.

The Education, Schooling and Society minor sponsored the event in response to the Forum in order to explore the issues on a local, community level. In addition to the panel discussion of local principles, a reception followed where other local organizations, teachers and principals shared their stories and displayed poster presentations.

Deb Martin of McKinley Primary Center, Karla Lee of Edison Intermediate Center, John Kennedy of South Bend New Tech High School and Darice Austin-Phillips of Perley Primary Fine Arts Academy were the four principals featured in the panel discussion.

“After the Forum, I felt many Notre Dame students had such negative feelings towards the South Bend education system,” Chaten said. “I wanted to give our students a chance to see the positive side of South Bend schools.”

Each principal on the panel promoted the South Bend School Corporation and gave informative and inspiring presentations of the reforms and initiatives they have implemented in each of their respective schools.

“At McKinley, we have adopted the motto ‘Learn like a champion today,'” Martin said. “This not only applies to the students, but also the teachers who promote, ‘Teach like a champion today.'”

The principals also discussed how they went about planning their reforms.

“We focused our reforms on answering the question, ‘What can we start to do to connect school material with real life experiences,” Lee said.

Lee said Edison Intermediate Center has initiated off-campus experiences to help students connect academics with the community including a “Science Day” where students spend the day at Jordan Hall of Science and get a chance to interact with Notre Dame students and professors.

Kennedy shared the new technological approach at New Tech High School, which focuses on 21st-century skills and emphasize the three C’s: college, careers of tomorrow and citizenship. Austin-Phillips discussed reforms resulting in a thorough arts-integrated academic program and heavily involved parent-teacher organization.

After each principal completed a formal presentation, Chaten asked the participants a few questions about their feelings on some of the issues discussed at the Forum. Topics included the teacher accountability and common misconceptions in public dialogue on education.

“Accountability of both teachers and students is necessary,” Kennedy said. “This accountability can be a good thing. Standards provide a sense of urgency for schools. If you spin that sense of urgency in a positive way, it can provide positive results.”

At the end of the discussion, the panel addressed the community and Notre Dame students in particular by discussing what others can do to help education reform.

“Many people often underestimate the tremendous amount of supports students need; it’s not just academic,” Austin-Phillips said. “If you want to help reform education, think about ways you can become part of that change.”

Lee recommended students visit local schools to inform themselves about the issues.

“What will be your impact and contribution to our future society? If you have not visited a South Bend school, go into a school and form your own perception and reality,” Lee said.

Many students attended the event, including sophomore Lisa Chin and were able to start to form their own perception and attitude toward South Bend schools Lee mentioned in her advice to Notre Dame students.

Students who attended said the event helped them become more informed about education issues.

“It was so great that the [Education, Schooling and Society minor] brought these educators to Notre Dame. I attended the Forum, but there weren’t any actual teachers represented,” sophomore Lisa Chin said. “We are members of the South Bend community as Notre Dame students and it is definitely important that we know what is going on locally.”

Contact Shannon O’Brien at [email protected]